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Emet m'Tsiyon

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Before the Iraqi Massacre of Jews, the Assyrians

Everyday's news tells of new atrocities in Iraq, mostly perpetrated by Arab Muslims against fellow Arab Muslims. So we know that Iraq is a bloodthirsty land, where it is difficult to find any connection to Israel for the violence, despite the usual mendacious insinuations that we've heard for years in the media habitually blaming Israel for everything untoward and unseemly in the Middle East. During World War 2, there was a major pogrom or massacre of Jews, in this season of the year, on the Shavu`ot holiday [1941], seven years before the State of Israel was reestablished. However, before the massacre of Jews, there was a massacre of the Assyrian minority, descendants of the ancient inhabitants of Iraq, who belong to the Nestorian sect of Christianity.

The Iraqi kingdom was granted independence by Britain, the mandatory power, in 1932, under the Hashemite prince, Faisal, the erstwhile king of Syria deposed in 1920 by the French. Assyrians lived in various parts of northern Iraq and in Baghdad, many as refugees from eastern Anatolia, Turkey of today, from where they had escaped while the Armenians were being massacred. The Arab nationalist historian, Majid Khadduri, who held prestigious university posts in the United States, gave his opinion of the "Assyrian affair." But first, he tells of how King Faisal was welcomed in London:
On 20 June [1933] King Faysal. . . arrived in London, and was received with full and impressive ceremonial. King George [V] welcomed him. . . As the two kings passed through the streets. . . they were cheered by the crowds that had assembled along the route to Buckingham Palace. . . In the evening King George and the Queen gave a state banquet at Buckingham Palace in King Faysal's honour. After the banquet the King proposed the health of his guest and said:
"It is with much pleasure, Your Majesty, that I bid you welcome to my capital, and assure you how delighted I am to have this opportunity of renewing our pleasant acquaintance of many years standing. . . We welcome Your Majesty. . . as an old ally and friend. . . I have watched the brilliant advance made by Iraq under Your Majesty's enlightened rule. . ." [M Khadduri, Independent Iraq (1st ed.; London: Oxford Univ Press 1951), p 41]

While Faisal was enjoying British flattery about his "enlightened rule," back in Iraq Assyrians were being massacred. The government of that time, called the Ikha,
were able to arouse, and then to incite, the indignation of the entire nation against the Assyrians and the British. . . While the Ikha Government may not have been directly responsible for the massaacre of Assyrians, which was mainly the work of General Bakr Sidqi (officer commanding the Iraqi forces in the north), Hikmat Sulayman, Minister of the Interior, declared to the writer [Khadduri] that he had approved the general line of policy which General Bakr Sidqi adopted.[p44]
King Faysal. . . returned to Baghdad [from London] on 2 August [1933], but found the situation completely beyond his control. . . Demonstrations, spontaneous or inspired, were taking place almost daily demanding the elimination of the entire Assyrian community. In one of the demonstrations outside the Royal Diwan, Amir Ghazi [son of Faisal] (who was in sympathy with the Ikha Government) and the Ikha leaders were loudly cheered by the excited crowds. . .[p 44]
So the mob was "demanding the elimination of the entire Assyrian community." Farther on in his book, Khadduri says:
The Iraqi army stood up to the expectations of the country when in August 1933, only a year after the attainment of independence, it dealt with the Assyrian affair so promptly and efficiently that, it was then contended, it had saved the integrity of Iraq. Bakr Sidqi, commander of the forces which put down that uprising, suddenly emerged as an unrivalled national hero. . .[p 79]
So the general who massacred the Assyrians, who were allegedly engaged in an "uprising," was "an unrivalled national hero."
. . . it was indeed owing to his daring handling of the uprising that it was so ruthlessly crushed. . . On his return to Baghdad he was applauded enthusiastically while he motored through the main street, seated on the right side of Prime Minister Rashid Ali al-Gaylani. . . [pp 80-81]
Bakr gave
a public speech. . . to the people of Mosul at a reception for the returning army after the crushing of the Assyrian uprising. . .
Khadduri tells about Ghazi son of Faisal:
The death of King Ghazi was regarded as a national calamity, since he was regarded as a popular hero by the Arab nationalists and the rank and file of the people. [in footnote] During the Assyrian affair. . . Amir Ghazi, then Crown Prince and acting head of State in the absence of his father, supported the Rashid Ali Government's stand in its policy towards the Assyrians, which made him for the first time popular in the eyes of the people. [p 138 & fn]
In other words, the "people" was happy that the Assyrians were crushed.

Just incidentally, there is an Assyrian "narrative" too of what happened to them in 1933 in Iraq. Here are nine pieces.
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Coming: more on Britain, the BBC and the Holocaust; the branch office of the Holocaust in Baghdad enjoys British toleration; more on Jews in Jerusalem in the 19th century, etc.


  • Thanks, everyone.

    By Blogger Eliyahu m'Tsiyon, at 10:33 PM  

  • Peter, before Srebrenica there was a massacre of Serbs in southern Croatia, north of the Banja Luka area. These Serbs were under UN protection or guarantees, supposedly. But when the Croatian army came after them, the UN did nothing to help them that I know of. Indeed, this affair was little reported in the Western press.

    By Blogger Eliyahu m'Tsiyon, at 12:27 AM  

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